European development days can shape global agenda

The end of the millennium development goals framework is a chance for the international community to reflect on its mistakes and adapt to changing times, writes Nirj Deva.

By Nirj Deva

28 May 2015

Eight guiding principles have, for the past 15 years, driven and catalysed our collective adherence to a fundamental recognition of a wider perspective; one by which we are compelled, in our own relative ease and security, to assume a greater responsibility to those most vulnerable, regardless of vicinity or gain.

And yet, as the millennium development goals (MDG) framework faces its swan song, the year for development signals the prospect for valuable, if somewhat self-indulgent, reflection; a chance for the international community to weigh its laudable successes against the undeniable mistakes.

Ideally, we will learn from our blunders. The advent of the post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs) will demand that we face fresh challenges, complacency not least among them. Perversely, our triumphs are threatened by the very nature of their success. 


The sixth MDG - the fight against Malaria - has authored an impressively heralded decline in mortality figures of 47 per cent between 2000 and 2013, according to the world health organisation. 

Yet, the malaise of depressed aid budgets and pervading tones of complacency threaten those very gains. 

Of the 75 resurgences of malaria since 1930, most have been ascribed to declines in funding, says the Clinton health access initiative. The European development days offer a unique platform from which we can actively set the tone for a new development agenda; one that will not fail to capitalise upon the efforts of the past. 

In the case of Malaria, a failure to do so would abandon hopes for the disease's eradication in favour of its drug-resistant revival.

Perhaps even more critically, the SDGs remain ludicrously expensive, to date an issue that has either been damningly overlooked or resoundingly ignored. Despite the lamentable, yet undeniably persistent failure of the development assistance committee (DAC) members to match their 0.7 per cent commitments of GDP towards aid budgets, the SDGs are estimated to demand four per cent of world GDP. 

In real terms, this means an increase of €1.8 trillion - €2.7 trillion a year of public and private money, over the course of the next 15 years.

Such numbers, given the general climate of austerity or beggary, either occupies the realms of grand fantasy or stand testament to an evolving reality; one in which our lofty aspirations for a world without poverty necessitate correspondingly steep commitments of funds. 

Simply put, it is a challenge that neither beleaguered national economies, nor the struggling taxpayer has any apparent appetite for. Indeed, almost by default, it is a burden that the private sector must be encouraged to shoulder and as parliament's rapporteur on the private sector and development, I hope to see this issue at the heart of the European development days.

The development landscape is shifting as population and income growth in developing countries looks set to drive a growing global middle-class, estimated at five billion by 2030. 

It is an evolution that will demand higher levels of production as levels of consumption sore. The demand for food, water and energy are forecast to rise by 50 per cent, 40 per cent and 30 per cent respectively by 2030. 

Such increases remain only possible in developing countries, and if companies are to remain economically feasible, they will need to foster fresh partnerships, recognising that inevitably they will need to achieve more with less. 

Driven by a growing and mutual necessity, private-public partnerships are an inherent feature of a changing development climate. 

With 90 per cent of the jobs and income for poor people in partner countries being generated by the private sector, we require a framework that capitalises on the sector's ability to develop inclusive business models incorporating the poor in their value chains, while ensuring that their engagement is underpinned by the principles of good governance, the rule of law, protection of property rights and transparency and accountability.


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